Calling it quits
Massimino resigns after seven years at Cleveland StatePosted: Saturday March 15, 2003 12:38 PM
Updated: Saturday March 15, 2003 3:47 PM
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Arms flailing, hair disheveled, suit a wrinkled mess, Rollie Massimino still would stomp his feet and dance down the sideline to scream at an official.
What never resurfaced for Massimino was his magic touch.
Massimino resigned after seven disappointing seasons as coach at Cleveland State, where he was unable to duplicate the success he had while leading Villanova to an improbable 1985 NCAA title.
Cleveland State bought out the final two years of the 68-year-old Massimino's contract, athletic director Lee Reed said Saturday. Massimino was paid $147,000 for the 2002-03 season.
His tenure in Cleveland ended with his first 20-loss season in 30 years of coaching, and he leaves a program in shambles. Reached Saturday, the school's sports information director was unaware of Massimino's resignation.
Massimino's team went 8-22 this season and finished last in the nine-team Horizon League. The Vikings lost in the first round of the conference tournament March 4 against Loyola of Chicago.
After the game, Massimino -- who has 515-391 career record, 20-10 in the NCAA tournament -- said he had no plans to retire. But there had been growing speculation he would step down or be fired.
"He felt it was time to move on," Reed said. "You only have so much time to spend with your family. He did a lot of great things here."
Reed credited Massimino with improving Cleveland State's national image, fund-raising and his ability to schedule elite programs. But he never got the Vikings to the NCAA tournament or NIT, his teams continually underachieving or falling apart late in the season.
There were also embarrassing off-the-court problems for the school.
Last year, two former players, Damon Stringer and Jamaal Harris, were convicted of robbing Cleveland Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia at gunpoint in a downtown hotel. Both are serving four-year prison sentences.
Massimino recently dismissed leading scorer Modibo Niakate from the team for unspecified disciplinary reasons. Earlier in the season, two other players transferred.
Massimino, who keeps a home in Florida during the offseason, did not return a phone message seeking comment Saturday.
"I have reached a point in my life where I want to spend more time with my wife and family," Massimino said in a statement released through the university. "Cleveland State has been very good to us and I have made many new friendships during my time in Cleveland.
"I'm sure CSU will be able to move ahead with all of its goals."
The fiery Massimino took over at Cleveland State in 1996 after two seasons at UNLV. He hoped to build Cleveland State -- which made its only NCAA tournament appearance in 1986 -- into a mid-major power. But after a promising start, the program sputtered, going 90-113 under Massimino.
He wasn't able to bring top recruits to the 16,000-student school located just east of downtown Cleveland.
Massimino forever will be linked to one of the greatest upsets in NCAA tournament history, when eighth-seeded Villanova stunned defending champion Georgetown in the 1985 championship game.
With Massimino pacing along the sideline, prodding his players, the Wildcats played a nearly perfect game to beat the heavily favored Hoyas 66-64.
Led by seniors Ed Pinckney, Gary McLain and Dwayne McClain, Villanova shot a tournament-record 79 percent (22-of-29) from the field to beat a Georgetown squad featuring Patrick Ewing.
Massimino spent 19 seasons at Villanova, compiling a 355-241 record and taking the school to 11 NCAA tourneys and four NITs. He had eight 20-plus win seasons at 'Nova.
He moved on to UNLV and went 36-21 in two seasons with the Runnin' Rebels.
After two seasons as a TV analyst, Massimino took over at Cleveland State, inheriting a team coming off a 5-21 season under Mike Boyd. The next year, the Vikings improved to 9-19 and went 12-15 in 1997-98.
Cleveland State's 14-14 mark in 1998-99 seemed to forecast brighter days. But after going 19-13 the next season, the Vikings lost to Detroit in the second round of the Horizon tournament.
Reed has started a search for Massimino's replacement.